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The Fastest Way to Earn Delta Medallion Status is … Not Flying Delta?!

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We know, we know: That headline seems counterintuitive. How could you earn Delta status without flying the airline itself? But stick with us and you'll see that flyers chasing Delta Medallion Status might be better off focusing on other airlines.

Status with Delta – or with any airline, for that matter – doesn't make sense for everyone. Earning even the lowest levels of status requires a lot of travel and hefty spending every year, all for an increasingly slim shot at complimentary upgrades and other perks that may not be worth the effort. But if you can minimize the effort, it could be a different story.

With Delta, every mile you fly and (almost) every dollar you spend with Delta inches you closer to Silver, Gold, Platinum and beyond. But that system works differently when flying with Delta's partner airlines in the SkyTeam alliance like Air France, KLM, Korean Air, and others. Plus, Delta credit cards offer avenues to building status … without even setting foot on a Delta jet.

Those are the keys to fast-track your way to Delta elite status. We'll walk through just how to earn status and how Delta credit cards and their partner airlines can put you over the top.

 

 

The Basics of Earning Delta Medallion Status

There’s no doubt about it: Even the lowest levels of Delta status require a fair amount of travel. And after a recent increase, it's gotten even more expensive.

Average travelers are unlikely to even scratch the surface of hitting Silver Medallion status, the airline’s lowest tier. If you travel a fair amount for work – or fly international long-haul with Delta or a partner – that could do the trick. But for the rest of us, it may be out of reach.

That's because there are two critical pieces to earn Medallion status with Delta: flying and spending. You have to rack up a certain amount of miles on Delta flights (called Medallion Qualification Miles or MQMs, which are different than SkyMiles) or a sheer number of flight segments. Then, there's also a spending requirement, called Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs).

 

delta medallion status requirements

 

One important hitch: Delta basic economy tickets no longer earn either MQMs nor MQDs. The airline made that brutal change in late 2021.

Once you unlock your status, you’ll have it for the rest of that year and the following calendar year. So earning status in 2023 would get you Delta Medallion status through January of 2025.

 

What are Delta Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs)?

Medallion Qualification Miles – or MQMs as they are better known – are one of the two key ingredients to earning elite status with Delta Air Lines. These aren't SkyMiles you can use to book a flight for (nearly free).

You earn and use SkyMiles by flying. But Delta MQMs have zero value … except for tracking your progress toward Delta’s Medallion elite status. MQMs are based on the actual distance flown. And you will generally earn 1 MQM for every mile you fly with Delta, though premium cabin flyers can earn 25% or 50% more, depending on the fare.

Each calendar year, you'll need to earn:

  • 25,000 MQMs to earn (or keep) Silver status
  • 50,000 MQMs to earn (or keep) Gold status
  • 75,000 MQMs to earn (or keep) Platinum status
  • 125,000 MQMs to earn (or keep) top-tier Diamond Medallion Status.

While Delta increased annual spending requirements starting in 2023, these distance requirements remain untouched.

Are you flying close to 25,000 miles or more per year with Delta? That’s more than five round-trip, cross-country flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to New York City (JFK), or two round trips from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) all the way to Seoul (ICN). All that flying just for Silver status.

 

delta a330-900 cabin
Photo courtesy of Delta

 

Or do you take a lot of Delta flights with connections that can pad your Medallion Qualifying Segment (MQS) totals? That's another way to satisfy Delta's flying requirement, though it's not one that many travelers use.

When the calendar year ends, you start back at zero on your quest to earn Delta status again … kind of. Fortunately, it's a bit easier because Delta rolls over any MQMs you've earned above your current status to give you a head start in the following year.

Another plus? Delta now permanently counts award tickets booked using SkyMiles toward status. So while booking an insane SkyMiles flash sale from Los Angeles (LAX) to Auckland (AKL) for just 37,000 SkyMiles previously wouldn't net you a single MQM, you'll now get more than 13,000 MQMs for that trip!

 

Earning Delta MQMs with Credit Cards

Outside of actually getting on a plane, there's only one other way to earn Delta MQMs: Delta co-branded credit cards. And even though Delta a full suite different co-branded credit cards, only two of them will help you attain status through earning MQMs.

Both the *delta skymiles platinum* and the *delta skymiles reserve* allow you to earn MQMs each year by meeting certain spending requirements. With the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card, you will earn 10,000 MQMs after you spend $25,000 on purchases within a calendar year. You can earn another 10,000 MQMs (20,000 total) by spending a total of $50,000 in a calendar year.

It's even better with the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card: You earn 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) by spending $30,000 throughout the year. That’s almost enough to automatically get Delta Silver Medallion Status without taking a single flight. And you can do that up to four times, meaning you can earn 60,000 MQMs each year … assuming you spend $120,000 on your Reserve Card.

 

earn mqm delta

 

It's a big reason we've included both of these cards on the list of the best credit cards for Delta flyers.

 

*delta skymiles platinum*

 

Learn more about the *delta skymiles platinum*

 

*delta skymiles reserve*

 

Learn more about the *delta skymiles reserve*

 

What About Delta Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs)?

The other building block of Delta elite status is Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs).

It's essentially a measurement of how much money you spend with Delta each year, not counting the mandatory government taxes and fees you pay for plane tickets as those don't count toward MQDs. And this is the component of earning Delta's elite status that makes us question its value for many.

Airline loyalty is expensive. In our opinion, trying to attain status on one airline makes little sense for the average traveler. It's a different story for frequent business travelers whose companies are footing the bill – status and the benefits that can come with it are nice when you're not paying for it!

But no matter who you are, Delta retooled the requirements for earning elite status late last year. Now, it requires even more spending with Delta to earn all but the lowest Silver elite status.

Here's a breakdown of how many MQMs or MQSs and MQDs are required to achieve each tier of Delta Medallion status as of Jan. 1, 2023:

  • Silver Medallion Status: 25,000 MQMs OR 30 MQSs AND $3,000 in spending on Delta or partner flights
  • Gold Medallion Status: 50,000 MQMs OR 60 MQSs AND $8,000 in spending on Delta or partner flights (up from $6,000)
  • Platinum Medallion Status: 75,000 MQMs OR 100 MQSs AND $12,000 in spending on Delta or partner flights (up from $9,000)
  • Diamond Medallion Status: 125,000 MQMs OR 140 MQSs AND $20,000 in spending on Delta or partner flights (up from $15,000)

 

Earning an MQD Waiver with Credit Cards

There's a way to bypass some of these lofty spending requirements for select Delta credit cardholders, too.

Both the *delta skymiles platinum* and the *delta skymiles reserve* allow you to earn an MQD waiver for Silver, Gold, and Platinum status by spending at least $25,000 on any and all purchases with the card in a calendar year. The waiver allows you to satisfy the MQD portion of the status earning requirement – no matter how many actual MQDs you have earned.

 

Delta MQD waiver progress

 

As you can see, I have already met the MQD waiver requirement this year by spending $25,000 on my Delta SkyMiles Platinum card. I have met the MQM requirement for Silver Medallion status and I am currently 662 MQMs short of qualifying for Gold status in 2024.

But Delta's dashboard now shows your upcoming flights, too – and that means I'm set. With the MQD waiver in hand and plenty of flights coming up, I've got Gold Status locked in through at least January 2025 and will be close to hitting Platinum, too.

 

Fast Track Earning Elite Status with Delta Partner Airlines

When you book a flight with Delta, every $1 you spend gets you 1 MQD towards earning Medallion elite status. But that’s not how it works with Delta’s partner airlines.

You can fly on Air France or KLM, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Air, AeroMexico, China Eastern and more to keep earning Delta SkyMiles – and build on status. One of the benefits of airline alliances like SkyTeam is that these partnerships allow flyers to choose where they want to earn miles and status. Just because you're flying with Korean Air doesn't mean you have to earn Korean SkyPass miles and status – you can credit those flights to Delta instead.

Booking through Delta, the MQDs you earn is based on the cash price. But when you book a partner airline – using that airline's website – the MQDs you earn are instead calculated by distance flown multiplied by something called a fare class multiplier – a higher fare class means a larger multiplier.

That’s a critical difference. And while you’ll still have to spend some money, these partnerships mean you can spend far less and still build Delta status by earning a ton more MQDs, especially on long-haul flights.

Let's take AeroMexico as an example. Back in 2018, I booked a round trip business class ticket on Aeromexico from New York (JFK) to Santiago, Chile (SCL) with a stop in Mexico City (MEX) for $992 dollars – a great deal we sent to our Thrifty Traveler Premium members.

Here's how Delta determines how many miles, MQMs, and MQDs you'll earn through AeroMexico.

 

Aeromexico partner MQD chart

 

If this flight was booked on a Delta plane, I would have only earned about 900 Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) towards Delta status, since government taxes and fees don't count toward MQDs. But because I was flying AeroMexico, MQMs were earned in an entirely different way: AeroMexico fares earn MQDs at a 40% multiplier for all business class fares.

That multiplier is based on the distance you actually fly – not the price you paid for your ticket. The roundtrip flights from New York to Santiago (with a pitstop in Mexico City) measure in at 12,349 miles total. Multiply that by 40% and you get 4,940 after rounding up.

That's right: I earned 4,940 MQDs – a heckuva lot better than the 992 MQDs I would have earned on a Delta flight … or by booking these exact same flights through Delta.com.

It's not just business class fares where you can come out ahead – it works even when flying economy, especially on ultra-long-haul journeys. For example, this $958 roundtrip fare to Taipei (TPE) would earn less than 900 MQDs through Delta.

 

jfk to tpe

 

But by booking through China Airlines itself and crediting the flight to Delta, you earn 20% of the distance of the flight. And since this long trip measures in at 15,616, that works out to 3,123 MQDs – more than triple the MQDs!

MQD earning rates vary from partner airline to partner airline, so make sure to check Delta's partner airlines page which will have information about each partner.

 

Earn Delta MQMs with Partner Airlines, Too

Earning MQMs on Delta's partner airlines generally works the same way it does on Delta-operated flights. Using the AeroMexico example above, I earned 200% of the distance flown in MQMs.

That means I earned 24,700 MQMs towards status, and this trip alone was nearly enough to qualify me for Silver Medallion Elite status. Not bad for a $992 fare!

 

Aeromexico partner MQD chart

 

When you book a higher fare class, you’ll earn more MQMs. Full fare First and Business Class tickets (F, J fares) are eligible for a 100% MQM bonus. Discounted First, Delta Premium Select, Business, and Premium Main Cabin tickets (P, A, G, C, D, I, Z, Y, and B fares) are eligible for a 50% MQM bonus. And purchased upgrades are eligible for bonus MQMs based on the class of service flown.

 

Bottom Line

Because of the way you earn Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) on Delta partner airlines, you can really fast track earning Delta status by taking flights with other SkyTeam airlines.

So long as you book through that partner airline's website and credit your flight to Delta, it can be a surefire strategy to work your way toward Delta status much faster. Combined with the valuable ways you can earn toward Medallion Status with Delta credit cards, it could be far easier to hit that next tier with Delta.

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

51 Responses

  • 1) If I depart on Dec 31 and return on Jan 4, do they credit the Dec 31 portion of MQDs in the current year, and the Jan 4 portion in the coming year?

    2) Is there a way to calculate MQDs on partner airlines prior to booking the ticket?

    Thanks for the info…you are awesome!

  • If you book through a partner site (e.g. Aeromexico) but the flight is operated by DL, do you still get the MQDs by mileage rather than $$ spent?

  • For the MQD at partner airlines, based on miles, can I book on the delta website, or would I need to book entirely via KLM for instance?

  • So to get to diamond status I need to spend 15k on Delta flights- but it only counts for the price of my ticket not my husbands right? ( so I spend 1600$ on 2 tickets I’m only getting 800 MQD’s)

  • Is there a way to earn mqd’s by using the sky miles shopping? Is there a way to earn mqds any other way than flying?

  • I am a current Diamond Medallion and have a mileage run booked and ticketed directly with Air France Dec 9-12 to make DM again for 2023. I bought a sale fare and should get about 2.8 MQDs per $1 spend on the ticket. Do you know how long it will take to receive the MQD credit in my Skymiles account?

    I read on Delta.com it could take 4-8 weeks for partner MQM/MQD to post? If that happens will the MQD still be applied back to the 2022 Medallion year as it should be? Will I earn DM again?

    • Have David. After the flight, I would make sure to keep your ticket and reach out to Delta immediately to make sure it gets credited.

  • Hi and thanks for the info. I am close to Silver status based on card spend. On my app it says I’m 0-1k away from status on total card spend. I have the Delta Gold and Platinum card. Is status based on total card spend or single card spend?

  • If I book a flight on Delta and do not actually get on the flight, do I still earn MQD’s?
    For example, I am $170 away from earning silver medallion status. However, I don’t have the time to fly anywhere. Can I book a $170 flight and not go to the airport?

  • I am 44 miles short in my MQM’s I only have 18 MQS. I have 3,881 MQD’s So to make up my 44 mqm’s – is the only way to do this is to fly? Or can I sign up for instance the instacart program or some other program that earns miles? Thank you.

    • Unfortunately, the only way to get MQMs is to take a flight which you will have to book and take before year’s end.

  • Are Global Upgrade Certificates able to be applied to flights on partner airlines? I’m looking at JFK to SCL and it shows flight availability on the Delta app but if I book d directly through LATAM, will I still be able to apply those GUC?

    And to clarify, I’d have to book directly through LATAM to benefit from the MQD multiplier, even if the flight is operated by LATAM?

    Thanks!

    • To my knowledge, I don’t think this is an option. And yes, you’d have to book through LATAM for the MQD multiplier.

  • I have a high card spend amount but I do not get to travel much. So I will hit my MQD waivers but I currently have 0 MQS segments and I don’t see myself getting 30 flights in within this year. Is there another way to waiver or hack the MQS requirement?

  • If I spent 250K per year on the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card. Would I qualify for the Diamond Status without flying?

    • No. You would still need to meet the Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) requirement. That is basically a measure of how many miles you fly with Delta. You need 125,000 of those a year in addition to the MQD spending waiver of $250k.

  • Is one allowed to open “both” Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Delta SkyMiles Reserve AMEX credit cards in order to accelerate bonus MQMs?

  • If I book a flight on a Delta partner airline, how do I “credit” it to Delta? Thank you for all your traveling tips. I’m a new Thrifty Traveler Premium member. It’s been a great investment that has paid for itself many times over!

    • Any time you book a flight, you have the option to enter a frequent flyer number – either for the airline you’re flying with (ie KLM) or one of their partners (ie Delta). Select Delta SkyMiles, enter your SkyMiles number, and voila: Your flight will earn SkyMiles + toward Delta status once you complete the flight.

  • I followed the link in this article to Delta’s website where it said you could earn miles when booking with their partners but it didn’t say how. Will that just come up as you do the booking? Also, since I obviously missed that last summer when I flew to Europe on KLM, I now have some KLM miles. Any way to transfer those to Delta?

    • Any time you book a flight, you have the option to enter a frequent flyer number – either for the airline you’re flying with (ie KLM) or one of their partners (ie Delta). Select Delta SkyMiles, enter your SkyMiles number, and voila: Your flight will earn SkyMiles + toward Delta status once you complete the flight.

      Unfortunately, there’s no way to transfer miles between airlines after the fact.

  • What does credit your flight to Delta mean, use the credit card or do you have to do something else if you book with a partner airline?

    • Any time you book a flight, you have the option to enter a frequent flyer number – either for the airline you’re flying with (ie KLM) or one of their partners (ie Delta). Select Delta SkyMiles, enter your SkyMiles number, and voila: Your flight will earn SkyMiles + toward Delta status once you complete the flight.

  • I’m assuming can’t get seat upgrades ( as a platinum medallion member) on a sky team flight but what if it’s a code share operated by Delta?

  • What if I booked direct with Virgin but I used miles to book that flight, will I earn anything towards my delta status ? We did provide them our Delta Skymiles number

  • I will be flying JFK-LAX rdtrip in Dec 2023. I paid for Main Cabin tickets. After completing this trip, I’ll be ~4,430 MQMs shy of Gold Medallion status for 2024

    Is there any way to “buy in advance” MQMs? For example, would upgrading to Comfort+ with miles sufficiently increase the total MQMs for this trip. OR, can I buy MQMs.
    I welcome any suggestions because MQMs won’t rollover as they will be obsolete in 2024.

  • I am flying from ATL to Rich for Christmas, after that flight I am still 128 MQMs shy of Silver status. I paid for the Comfort upgrade but it didnt increase my MQMs what should I do.

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